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Ego has been a topic of deep thought for me over the past few months. As I have gone through challenging and hard times over the past eight years, I have inevitably changed. As my views of life have been challenged, I have developed a soft heart and a groundedness that have allowed me to be introspective and reflect on and connect with the world around me. For this reason, I am grateful for my illness and everything that it has taught me. Shifting my mindset from seeing my trials and tribulations as a curse to seeing them as a gift and a blessing has been one of the most important yet hardest mental shifts I have ever gone through. What it comes down to is that having a chronic illness has been a gift. It has changed how I view the world around me, and it has been a guide leading me towards mindfulness and letting go of my ego.

When we are in an egoic state, our egos are in full control of us. We become afraid of our emotions because we are powerless to them. As emotions arise, they come to us as if we are a small child holding the leash of a big and powerful untrained dog. The intent of being able to control and lead our emotions is there. We have the dog on a leash and are ready to take it for a walk, but in reality, as small, delicate children, we stand no chance of controlling this powerful beast. Leash or no leash, we have no choice: that dog is going to drag us around wherever it wants to go.

However, just like you can train a dog to walk on a leash without pulling, we can train our minds to be present, aware, and awake, which allows our egos to become a powerful tool rather than a leash to be dragged behind. In this present, aware, and awake state, instead of emotions controlling us and taking us for a ride, we become observers of the world, and in turn, our emotions lose their power over us. Being present is about experiencing without the story behind the experience. For example, you do not experience anxiety. Anxiety is actually the story of a set of physical sensations. Anxiety in itself is not a real thing. When you take away the label and story of anxiety, you are left with physical sensations like a racing heart, feeling hot, a tight chest, a trembling body, flushed skin, or an active mind. When you take the time to observe these physical sensations truly in the present without the story behind them, you will begin to see that they are powerless. In the present moment, they are only a sensation. Suffering from these sensations only happens in the past or the future when there is a story behind what you are feeling at that moment.

How exactly has having a chronic illness helped me deal with my ego? The answer is that it has given me a plethora of physical symptoms that, over the years, my body and mind have turned into some very long and complex stories. For the past eight years, there has been a very big and powerful dog dragging me around, and up until recently, I had not been paying attention to how my emotions were controlling my physical state, and as I have begun to work on my mindfulness, I have also started to work on deconstructing these stories and viewing my experiences in this world at face value and in the present moment. When you take the story away from your illness and you focus on just experiencing each moment, you suddenly stop relating to yourself as an ill person. You lose all expectations of what it means to be ill, and you simply be you at that moment.

 

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17 Comments

  1. Thank you Matt. I enjoyed your writing very much. Your message is beautiful in it’s simplicity, yet not so simple to accomplish. I am a bit different from you in that, in the first decade of my FMS/CFS, I was able to be more philosophical than I am now. The past decade of pain and isolation have drained me.

    I awoke on this New Years day without hope of recovery and wondering what’s the point. I really needed to read this. Thank you for reminding me that my attitude, my perspective and my heart are everything in being chronically ill. I will choose to be here today because that is what I have. That is the point.

    It does no one, especially me, any good to give in to the grief and sorrow of who I used to be and wondering if I will I ever feel better. Making the most of what we have.

    Thanks again for the reminder.

    1. Lynn I am glad you found some support in my words. There is no doubt that this is not an easy thing to live with. The more we focus on the now as opposed to the past or future, the less we suffer. That does not mean it is not going to hurt or be hard, but at least we can romvoe some of the suffering. If you ever need support, I am trying to build a community of like minded people on Facebook here:Being Matt Facebook I would love to keep in touch and support each other.

      1. Hi Matt. I’d like that, too. I have just posted your FB page and Blog on my upcoming website. I also forwarded your blog site to FB fibrobuddies on guaifenesin, which is the OTC medication we take to reverse the symptoms. Men are so under represented in this community of fibromyalgics, so I appealed to everyone to read your blog/visit your FB page for support and tell every man about your work. Tis a good thing you are doing!

        Feel free to contact me on my personal email. We can use all the support we can get!

  2. Cheers to 2016 Matt and I hope this finds you well! Loved your article! So much of how we accept life and living is determined by our thoughts. Many hugs!

  3. I guess I never thought about my ego being affected by my fibro and cf. It makes perfect sense though. It feels like it is my identity, hello, my name is wendy and I have fibro and cf.. It is embarrassing for me when people find out, like I have a defect. It has had such a negative impact in my life but as an oncology nurse and hospice nurse it has given me empathy for the pain and fatigue that is experienced by my patients. Thank you for opening a new view.

  4. Hi Matt. I have CFS/M.E. too. I was diagnosed about 16 years ago. I had it for about 8 years prior to that or maybe longer. I agree it is a humbling experience from which you can learn a great deal about yourself. Somehow the illness is there to teach ‘us’ a deeper lesson in life. For me the hardest one was to accept my limits and to do this I had to learn self-acceptance. This took ALL my inner strength to do. Normally when facing a challenge I would fight it or climb over it like a soldier battling against the enemy and over the obstacle course of life. M.E. taught me to be at peace with what and who I am. You have to become friends with your M.E. Once I started to work within my limits I started to get better. I did become well enough to cycle coast to coast of the U.K. about 250 miles. A big achievement for me as when I was first diagnosed I could hardly walk at times. It took around 8 years to accomplish this. I was okay for a few years but sadly when I had some prolonged virus over winter a couple of years ago my health suffered. I am not as ill as before, but I am again having to adjust. I have had to remember this same lesson all over again. However, now that I have I am beginning to slowly get well. Certainly mindfulness plays an important role in recovery along with many other factors. I feel more mindful since reading your blog. Thank you for your positivity.

  5. Dear matt
    I too have fibromyalgia. Wow you have described exactly how I now live my life. Letting go and being in the moment has been the biggest lesson I have learned, but I never related this to ego. Very interesting. I don’t talk much about my illness, only to those that understand and that is few and far between. To everyone else I look OK. I live in my own world I guess, but I am fine with that. It doesn’t bother me anymore what people think or say. Everyday is a new day that I value and take happiness in the smallest of things. Material things don’t matter to me anymore. I take pleasure in the bluest of skies, my dog, my fleecy sheets, my grand children etc. Being in the moment and free to do whatever makes me happy. So that I can live with who I am and not dwell on my illness. The past 10 years has been a roller coaster ride in terms of material losses, but I still am alive. Thanks for putting it in words what I have been practicing for quite some time. I look forward to reading more “scribbles” on your blog. Patricia Smith

  6. Very well said. As I was reading this article, I felt as though you were in my head. I haven’t been ill as long as you have, but have more recently figured out to be thankful for where I am and the lesson to be learned during my struggle to overcome. I definitely appreciate my family and friends who have stuck with me, supported me and put up with me. Enjoy the little achievements as they may seem little, but in the big picture are huge?

  7. I think I let go of my ego years ago. I got cfs/me when I was 16 (23 years ago). Who I was then and who I am today are Poles apart. You basically let go of the old ‘you’ and become a New ‘you’. The first few years I used to mourn the old me (I guess that was my ego). But since ten, I’ve learned to appreciate what the illness has taught me ie empathy, patience, flexibility.
    Anyway thanks for your post

  8. Matt-
    What a very interesting perspective. I think it is a calming one. Just live in the moment. Things are how they are supposed to be πŸ™‚ It is a tough concept to accept and understand, but I think it is a healthy outlook, and I hope to be as zen about it as you! Have you read “The Tao of Pooh”?
    You have a very Taoist outlook. Love it!

    1. No, I have not read it, but I just looked it looks amazing!!! I think I will have to get it and read it now.

      1. πŸ™‚ Let me know what you think! To me, it feels in line to your philosophy, There is also a sequel that goes into more detail, if you like what you have read <3

        1. I ordered it off amazon, so I will tell you what I think when I read it. It just seems like an amazing and simple way to present a complex idea.

  9. You said : I am grateful for my illness and everything it has taught me. That is also how I feel.
    In a mindfulness group of people with ME/CFS, I tried to explain this to the others, but I think they were just shocked. They did not get the meaning. You explain it beautifully! Thank you!

  10. Thanks for this, Matt. I felt like I was reading my own journey. It is always inspiring to know someone else is going through something very similar. Although I don’t typically use time as a marker, it feels like 2016 has started out as a year with a new level of awareness of ego generally and as it manifests with the body specifically. I hope it is a year of peace and enlightenment for you.

  11. I am so happy to have found your blog! It is the blog I keep meaning to write but never quite got around to it lol. I am grateful for my fibro, it has shown me a whole new life and one I now absolutely love. I have worked with mindfulness and letting ego go, and now help others with healing. It has been a truly amazing, very difficult journey but the gratitude I have for it is immense, some may call me crazy πŸ˜‰ Living in the moment and enjoying just being is a wonderful gift.

    Thank you for your blog it is so wonderful to read other people have found similar light on their paths through the struggle.

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